Moves to all-island links in sport, transport

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A potential All-Ireland soccer league could be on the cards with the two football associations in both parts of Ireland working on it, according to reports.

Unlike most other sports, the Six-County Irish Football Association and the 26 County Football Association of Ireland split following a row among soccer officials in the 1920s, with both associations originally claiming to represent the island of Ireland.

There have now been talks between the two organisations, in conjunction with the international body, the UEFA, who are looking to improve standards in weaker leagues by combining them.

There are many European countries considering similar cross-border leagues and last month Belgian sides voted in favour of a potential collaboration with clubs in the neighbouring Netherlands.

The payoff could come from substantial TV deals.

UEFA Chief Executive Alexander Ceferin recently confirmed discussions about regional leagues have taken place, underlining the change in stance from European football’s governing body.

“UEFA, in principle, has nothing against regional leagues,” said Ceferin. The main problem is how to go from those leagues to European competitions. UEFA would have to solve that problem. Regional leagues are a serious undertaking and nothing concrete has been decided yet.”

RAIL LINK-UP

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson has welcomed the launch of an all-island review of rail transport by Ministers north and south.

The review into an all-island rail network was announced by the Six County Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon and 26 County Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan. It will look at improving rail connectivity between major cities and extending accessibility to the north west.

The commitment was previously outlined in last year’s New Decade, New Approach talks deal to restore Stormont.

Ms Anderson said: “I welcome this move to review rail on an all-Ireland basis to help improve how we travel about this island.

“We know that our rail network can be improved by cutting journey times and increasing services.

“This could have major benefits for the north west and part of this work should include a feasibility study on extending the Derry line into Letterkenny and beyond.

“It’s vital that on the back of this review, we see real delivery on improving our rail line and creating connecting our island through our trains.”

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